Carnivals around the world

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© UNESCO
27 February 2017

It’s carnival time! The exact dates of these traditional celebrations vary from one year to the next but they usually begin just before the Christian observance of Lent between February and early March. They generally start on a Thursday and end the following Tuesday, often referred to as Shrove Tuesday or Mardi Gras. In some parts of the world, revellers on the day following carnival practice the ritual Burial of the Sardine

Carnivals offer local adaptations and mixes of practices such as the wearing of masks and costumes and the holding of parades, and street parties. Carnival always suggests licence, revelling and a reversal of ordinary rules. They often feature pre-Christian elements and traditions such as the Roman Saturnalia and other festivities that honoured Dionysus or Bacchus in Antiquity. In the Americas, carnivals present elements of ancient celebrations rooted in pre-Columbian or African traditions.

Anthropologists generally consider carnival to be an heir to the ancient celebrations of the end of winter and the imminent arrival of spring.

From Oruro in Bolivia, through Recife in Brazil, Barraquilla in Colombia, El Callao in Venezuela, to Belgium and Austria, Croatia and Hungary, many festivities figure on the Representative List of Intangible Cultural Heritage of Humanity for you to discover and enjoy!